Here it is the middle of March and ice cakes fill the Strait from shore to shore. When the wind changes direction the ice groans and mutters to itself, “Shall I leave? No, not just yet.”
Although the earth still wears its drab and threadbare winter garb, new colorful life is awakening underfoot and soon the first crocus will poke through the grass in some sunny nook.
Gardeners in the Cove are eagerly studying their seed catalogues. Are Gateway cucumbers so much better than Mercury? Wonder why they’re more expensive? Look at these beautiful peppers. Shall we try another variety?—no, we have plenty of seeds. Besides, the Cheyenne pepper plant that we brought inside last fall has come back to life, and its little yellow-green pepper babies are sticking straight up as if to say, look out world, here we come!
It will be a month or so before real gardening work begins, for the rains are coming down, the freshets are running and there’s water, water everywhere. Spring flooding has always been part of the Island Spring Package. In “Roads to Summerside” (Ada MacLeod, 1980) the author quotes from a newspaper of 1868: “The important town of Summerside is now nearly submerged. Its streets are knee-deep in mud, with stagnant water in most cellars… A large portion of the eastern centre is nothing better than a swamp. It bred much typhoid fever last season and will do so again this season.” (p. 61)
I didn’t know people could contract typhoid fever on PEI.
MacLeod also mentions a cow being drowned in the very middle of lower Spring Street! Now that was a real pothole; the roads are much better these days!
Other interesting items of trivia are contained in “Roads to Summerside.” 1881 saw the appearance of the first potato bug on the Island—“a specimen of which was on exhibition in the window of the P.C. Drugstore.” April 1882: “The ice on Summerside Harbour was 3 feet thick and as solid as in midwinter.” 1885: “A smallpox epidemic carried off 50 victims in Charlottetown.” And so on.
Folks say that we live in perilous times, but these days we walk around town on sidewalks, not in knee-deep mud. We have antibiotics for typhoid fever and sump pumps for wet cellars. We need not go hungry, for when we reach the dusty bottom of the burlap potato sack, we can go to the store and buy a bag of someone else’s delicious potatoes.
It’s a good time to be alive! To linger outdoors when the evenings are bright and beckoning and smell of barbeque; to admire the male goldfinch breasts turning even golder; to hear meltwater dripping down the edges of the capes.
Today I’m going to dig out my spring jacket, oil my bike, and… oh heck, what’s the rush. There’s snow on the ground. Still, I can at least get pots ready for planting the Scotia tomatoes.